I’ve decided to return to my little collection of images from the past, including many faces that have provided inspiration and guidance of one type or another for my fictional forays. Since today is Memorial Day, it’s only fitting that I start with the photograph of someone who served during World War II and instilled in me a lifelong love of books, reading, and stories: my mother, Corinne Cramer.
After a year of college, Corinne joined the SPARS (United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve) and was stationed in New York City. From what I recall of her stories, she did a lot of filing and clerical work, made friends, and thoroughly enjoyed what NYC had to offer in the mid-1940s, including frequent outings to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. I am guessing she was at the most 20 at the time when she made this journey, and as a young woman coming from Colorado, I imagine her coming to New York was quite the daring adventure.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of her on one of the window seats in our suburban home, reading enormous James Michener tomes. She read before going to bed, during quiet times during the day, and in the park while we kids ran havoc. She taught me how one can “fall into a book,” anywhere, anytime, and, through the alchemy that occurs between the printed word on the page and the imagination, transport to another place.
This next photograph (which you can also spot on my website) is none other than Elsie Richards Cramer, my mother’s mother. Whereas I “borrowed” my father’s mother’s maiden name for my Silver Rush protagonist, Inez Stannert, I relied on Grandma Elsie for my protagonist’s physical attributes, from her thick, beautiful brunette hair, to her olive skin, and her hazel eyes. Drawing on various characteristics of personality and background of my two grandmothers—two very different women, but each strong in her own way—I created the focal character of my ongoing series.
Finally, we have this fellow. To my mind, he has the look of an adventurer as well. This tintype is from the family collection, so I’m betting that we might be gazing upon none other than Henry Underwood (1834-1899), who left the comfort of home and family in Philadelphia way back when and when west in search of gold in 1849. I love the casual pose, so different from the stiff-backed postures one usually sees in tintypes of the era. So, you may wonder, what would the nineteenth-century version of “California dreaming” have to do with the Silver Rush series?
I suppose you’ll have to read What Gold Buys to learn the answer to that mystery…